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What happens on a cardiac rehabilitation Programme?

You should be invited to go on cardiac rehabilitation programme, which usually starts two to six weeks after you leave hospital. People who follow a cardiac rehabilitation programme can get fitter and recover more quickly. The information and support you get from the programme can help you to make healthy lifestyle choices. Cardiac rehabilitation has been found to reduce the risk of dying from coronary hear t disease, and helps reduce some of the risk factors for the disease.

The programme usually involves going to session lasting about one or two hours, once or twice a week for around 8 to 12 weeks. Some Programmes may have shorter or longer session and they may vary in the number of weeks they run for. Programmes are usually run in hospital or a community or leisure centre and may be done in group sessions or individually.

Most programmes are for people who have had a heart attack, or for those who have had a coronary angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery. Some cardiac rehabilitation programmes invite people who have other conditions such a stable angina or stable heart failure, or people who have had other types of heart surgery.

Cardiac rehabilitation programmes and services vary widely throughout the country, but programmes usually include one or more of the following.

  • Exercise
  • Education
  • Relaxation and psychological support

Before you are invited to start a formal outpatient cardiac rehabilitation programme you will be sent an assessment appointment with a cardiac rehabilation specialist. If a formal, structured cardiac rehabilitation programme is suitable for you and your assessor will together decide on which type of programme would be best for you where can do it.


Exercise is an important part of your rehabilitation as it will help your recovery and improve your fitness strength and general wellbeing. Regular exercise also helps to keep your heart healthy in the future.

The types of activities and exercise sessions at the cardiac rehabilitation programme vary from one programme to another. Most programme offer exercise session for groups, but some can provide one to one sessions of women only sessions.

Before you start the programme you will have an assessment to find out how much exercise you can safely do. A nurse physiotherapist or an exercise specialist can then work out a programme of exercise for you, tailoring the programme to your particular needs.

If you are quite limited by your heart disease or if you have another condition that affects your movement – such a as arthritis – you may find that your activities are restricted. However doing even a small amount of activity can be helpful in regaining your confidence helping your recovery and improving your fitness.

You will be encouraged to starts slowly and gently. And to increase your exercise gradually over the weeks of the programme . it is very important that you work within your limits and follow the advice given to you .

Before beginning an exercise session, you will do some gentle warm up movements to get your joins moving and to prepare your muscles and heart for exercise. The main part of the exercise sessions will be “aerobic” these are exercise that helps to improve the fitness of your heart and circulation. Most cardiac rehabilation programmes include a range of different exercise .Some use equipment such as exercise bikes and some may include chair based exercises. At the end of each exercises session you will do a gentle cool down which is essential for ending the exercise session safely. this also helps prevent your muscles aching the next day .

While you’re doing your exercise you may be asked to record your heart rate( someone will show you have to do this) you may also be asked to rate how hard you feel you are working. If you have unstable angina or controlled symptoms you may be able to do the exercise session but you can still benefit from the other parts of the cardiac rehabilitation programme.

Some of the topics covered in cardiac rehabilitation programmes

  • Different types of heart conditions such as coronary heart disease and heart attack.
  • Treatments for heart conditions including heart operations coronary angioplasty and medicines.
  • The risk factor for coronary heart disease – such as smoking high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure - and what you can do about them to help reduce your risk
  • Healthy lifestyle- including healthy eating and physical activity
  • Practical issues such as driving returning to work and holidays.
  • What you or your relatives or friends should do if there is an emergency
  • How to manage stress
  • Long-term management of your conditions

Some programme also invites different specialists such as dietitians, to come and speak to the group

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